Saturday, April 23, 2016

Chicken Makhanwala

I am about to make Rehan's all time favorite. Makhanwala in restaurants is thickened with cashewnut paste, something my kids are deathly allergic to. As he cannot eat restaurant Makhanwala, I have been recreating this recipe often, fine tuning several versions over the years. This version is the most popular. His D&D buddies come over for a session. They make noise and I make dinner.

Chicken thighs marinate in tandoori masala, yogurt,  ginger, garlic and lime overnight. The overnight marinade imbibes essential flavor. My pet peeve is that chicken in the US is bland and tasteless. I have discovered that the longer you marinate the meat, the better it tastes. I sometimes grill the chicken, but for the most part it roasts in the oven. The sauce comes together easily. It is makhanwala so you have to begin with a a few dabs of butter or makhan. I sweat chopped onions, green chiles, garlic and then add tomato sauce, cream and spices. As it gently simmers, I add the cooked, shredded chicken. Looking pleasing to the eye, a mellow pinkish red, flecked with green,  I deliver an aromatic alternative to a curry house staple.

Serves 6

8 Chicken Thighs
1/2 cup Yogurt 
2 tablespoons store bought Tandoori Masala 
1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
1 teaspoon Ginger Paste
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Juice of 1/2 Lime
2 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Canola Oil 
1 large Onion
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Paste
2 Green Chiles
1/4 cup Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup Cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder
1/2 teaspoon Roasted Cumin Powder 
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2-3/4 cup Cream
1/2 teaspoon Kasuri Methi (optional)

Marinate the chicken overnight for best result. Remove skin and fat from chicken thighs. Wash, dry and place in a nonreactive bowl.

Make marinade by mixing yogurt, garlic paste, ginger paste, tandoori masala, salt and lime juice. 

Use a knife to make small slits in chicken thighs. Pour marinade over chicken. Massage marinade into meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If you are short on time, marinate meat for 4-6 hours.

Heat oven to 375F.

Place chicken on a foil lined sheetpan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check occasionally to see if chicken is done. Cooking time depends on the size of chicken thighs.

As chicken bakes, start the sauce.

Chop onions into small dice.

Slice green chiles into thin slivers.

Chop cilantro.

Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan.

Add onions and let them sweat for a few minutes till soft.

Drop chiles and garlic paste into onions. Saute for a few minutes.

Add tomato sauce.

Let sauce come to a simmer and then add cream. Start with 1/2 cup and add more if the sauce thickens too much. Stir slowly to mix cream in. 

Add cilantro, sugar, chile powder, cumin powder, Garam masala and salt to sauce. Stir slowly so powders dissolve into sauce.

Bring sauce to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes and keep aside till its time to add the chicken.

Once chicken is done, take it out of the oven. Shred chicken into bite size pieces while it is warm.

Place sauce on a low flame and add chicken to sauce.  Let chicken hang out in sauce for 5-7 minutes for tandoori flavors to seep in.

If you are adding Kasuri methi, this would be the time to crumble it in. 

Serve chicken hot with naan or rice.

Rehan's friends enjoy the unadulterated flavors of the North Indian meal. Paneer, cauliflower, samosas, maa ki daal, rice and rotis round out the meal. My son thanks me effusively as their D&D meals usually consist of pizza and tacos. The next day I'm told that one friend is in tears because he wants to eat some more! Compliments come in many forms!